The Evolution of Iranian Cinema: A Historical Journey

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The History of Iranian Cinema: A Journey Through Time

Iranian cinema, known for its rich storytelling and unique aesthetic, has evolved significantly since its inception. From its early days in the early 20th century to its current status as a major player on the international film stage, Iranian cinema has undergone numerous transformations. This article delves into the history of Iranian cinema, highlighting its key phases and notable contributions.

Early Beginnings (1900-1930s)

The history of Iranian cinema dates back to the early 1900s, during the Qajar dynasty. The first Iranian filmmaker, Mirza Ebrahim Khan Akkas Bashi, was appointed as the court photographer by Mozaffar al-Din Shah, the then ruler of Iran. In 1900, Akkas Bashi documented the Shah’s visit to Europe, marking the first instance of Iranian filmmaking.

In 1930, the first Iranian silent film, “Abi and Rabi,” directed by Ovanes Ohanian, was released. This was followed by Iran’s first talkie, “The Lor Girl,” in 1933, directed by Ardeshir Irani. These early films were primarily influenced by Western cinema, laying the foundation for the future of Iranian filmmaking.

The Golden Age (1940s-1970s)

The period from the 1940s to the 1970s is often referred to as the Golden Age of Iranian cinema. This era saw the emergence of film studios and the production of numerous feature films. Filmmakers like Ebrahim Golestan, Dariush Mehrjui, and Masoud Kimiai became prominent figures in the industry.

In 1969, Dariush Mehrjui’s “The Cow” (Gaav) was released, which is widely regarded as a turning point in Iranian cinema. The film’s realistic portrayal of rural life and its exploration of social issues resonated with audiences and critics alike. This period also witnessed the rise of the Iranian New Wave, characterized by its focus on realism, social critique, and poetic storytelling.

Post-Revolution Era (1980s-1990s)

The 1979 Islamic Revolution brought significant changes to Iranian cinema. The new regime imposed strict censorship laws, leading to a temporary decline in film production. However, the 1980s saw a resurgence, with filmmakers adapting to the new regulations and finding creative ways to tell their stories.

During this time, directors like Abbas Kiarostami, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, and Jafar Panahi emerged as leading figures in Iranian cinema. Abbas Kiarostami’s “Where Is the Friend’s Home?” (1987) and “Close-Up” (1990) received international acclaim, showcasing the unique narrative style and philosophical depth of Iranian films.

Modern Era (2000s-Present)

In the 2000s, Iranian cinema continued to thrive on the global stage. Filmmakers like Asghar Farhadi, Majid Majidi, and Samira Makhmalbaf gained international recognition for their work. Asghar Farhadi’s “A Separation” (2011) won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, bringing Iranian cinema to the forefront of global attention.

Despite ongoing censorship and political challenges, contemporary Iranian filmmakers have continued to push boundaries and explore new themes. Films like “The Salesman” (2016) and “There Is No Evil” (2020) have further cemented Iran’s reputation as a powerhouse in world cinema.


The history of Iranian cinema is a testament to the resilience and creativity of its filmmakers. From its early beginnings to its current status as a celebrated global cinema, Iranian films have consistently captivated audiences with their compelling narratives and artistic vision. As Iranian cinema continues to evolve, it remains a vital and influential force in the world of film.

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